How to monetize your app?

Monetizing your app is rather easy, but the decision on the actual monetization model you want to use can be very hard.

So what are the main monetization models? Let’s lay them out:

  1. Advertising - Ads can be annoying, but hey! You have to get paid somehow
  2. Freemium - It’s free! Kinda...
  3. Sell your app - you worked hard to make it.. NOT! It’s easy with Upsquare :)
  4. In-app purchases - You have to spend money to get cool stuff
  5. Sales push - They want your product, make sure they don’t forget it


Why get into in-app advertising?

Because it’s growing! Let’s take a look at some stats…

There are over 8 million apps on Google Play, over 2,2 million apps on the App Store and then there’s around 600.000 apps on Microsoft and Amazon store each. Projections of mobile app downloads goes as high as 258 billion annually till the year 2022.

The time people spend on their phones is growing rapidly and advertisers are realizing it. A big portion of this time is spent in apps and advertisers are realizing that as well. So what happens when advertisers realize that something is getting a lot of attention? They shove a lot of money at it! Some sources says that currently 27 % of advertising budgets go towards some kind of mobile advertising.

You have to realize that your app is basically another one of your properties. If you have a blog, you have one property that you can turn into an advertising money making machine. If you have two blogs, you have two properties you can make money from. If you have two blogs and you convert them into apps, you then have four monetizable properties that you can use to attract some of that lucrative advertising revenue with. Besides, most people don’t want to pay for apps and advertisement makes for more than 90 % of all ad revenue.


How to actually implement ads into your app?

The process itself is rather similar to implementing advertisement on your website, but… harder. If you want to do it manually, you’ll definitely need a developer. Good news though, with Upsquare you can add ads from AdMob with just a few clicks and start earning revenue right away.

However, there are other networks for you to choose from, if Google's AdMob doesn’t float your boat. Here’s a quick overview of ad networks that offer in-app advertising.


The largest mobile ad network owned by Google. Due to its large advertiser base, this is the best choice for the majority of publishers as it offers security and enough ad supply to fill your placements regularly.

Unity Ads

Specialized ad network for games. Unity is the leading game engine in the world, so it’s no surprise that they know what they are doing when it comes to mobile games as well. If your app is a game built with Unity, trying their ad network should be a no-brainer.

Facebook audience network

It’s no secret that Facebook has ambitions to expand well beyond their own social media platform. The Audience Networks is the product of exactly that. With it’s large enough advertiser base and huge amounts of data that makes ads relevant to your users, it offers a good alternative to AdMob.

Millennial Media

Millennial media is an independent mobile advertising network. It’s a smaller, but it has fairly large couvrage in the US market.

What kinds of apps are appropriate for this monetization model?

Mostly, if not all, apps can be monetized through advertising. The only thing you have to ask yourself is whether the advertisement in your app will take away the focus from something else you want to achieve and whether it will open the door for your competition and how that will affect your business. For example, if you have a shopping app for your store, you probably lose more by letting your competition advertise their products in your app than you gain with advertising revenue.

Ideally this monetization method is used in content based apps, so blog/news apps, games, tools etc. This also means that you'll probably have to get to know about app store optimization as well, to drive free organic app store search downloads.


It’s free, but you have to pay to get the premium version. A simple monetization model that allows you to give your users a taste and lures them to buy the premium version.

This model is mostly used for apps that are basically tools. You can give users the basic functionalities for free, but if they want the pro version, they have to pay a subscription. However this model can also be applied to news apps. You can let your users read a certain amount of content for free, but reserve the rest for the paying customers or give paying customers extra, bonus or more in-depth content.

What’s really cool about this app monetization model? You can combine it with advertising in two ways:

  1. Add advertising in a non-intrusive way. If it’s done well, it can be an extra revenue stream and also not be a turn off to your users.
  2. Let advertising removal be the “bonus” for the premium plan. Nobody likes ads and some people are prepared to pay extra to get rid of them.

Sell your app

The simplest model for monetizing anything and it has been around since forever. If you have so much faith in your app and you believe people will be willing to fork over some cash for it, why not just sell it?

What kinds of app could, or rather should, you sell?

Apps that give the user added value and are not generally perceived as being free. Most commonly these are either games or tools. It would make no sense selling a shopping app as it would interfere with the core monetization model. It would also make no sense in selling an app made from a blog, as most people perceive written content as free now-a-days.

The platform for which the app is built is also very important when considering whether or not to attach a price tag to it. It’s a well known fact that iOS users are a lot more likely to send some cash your way for an app than Android users.

In-app purchases

This is a monetization model most associated with games. The idea is that you get the app free, but use it to sell things that enhance the user experience.In games, that would be new skins, extra in-game currency, power-ups etc.

You can however sell other things through your app. Turning your online shop into an app is probably the best way to sell to your regular customers, as discussed in the next subheading.

Sales push

Apps are the best possible communication channel to your customers. Once you’re on their phone, they’re yours. You can easily communicate with them and notify them about promotions, new items and changes in your shop. If you have an online shop and turn it into an app, each install is a new loyal customer that you can get maximum value from.

The great thing about shopping apps is that they don’t suffer from setbacks that plague newsletters and social media… unless you do it wrong.

Newsletters get opened rather seldomly or get lost in spam or in the promotions tab of your customers inbox. Don’t get me wrong, emailing your customers is till a great way to sell, it’s just not the best way anymore.

Most social media sites give less and less organic impressions to businesses. It makes sense, they want you to pay to get in touch with your audience, it’s where they make their money.

Your app on the other hand, is on your customers phone. They will receive and see your notification every time and since it’s your app, you don’t have to pay to send it out. Imagine if you had a newsletter list where everyone would open your emails or a social media site that would show your post to each and every one of your followers every time. That’s basically what having your own shopping app feels like.

Now, you still have to do it right. People don’t open push notifications a 100% of the time, but it can be pretty darn close, if they feel they get value. The best advice would be to not over do it. Did you just list 10 new products? They don’t need 10 notifications. Do you add products every day? Nobody wants to get spammed every day, so group the products together and use one or two notifications a week. Did you just start a promotion where everything is 20% off? Now that’s something that everyone of your customers is going to want to know about!

What apps are appropriate for this monetization model?

Obviously, shopping apps. You can easily make your own out of your online shop with Upsquare.

HINT: You don’t have your shop built on one of the supported platforms? Make a simple “blog” app with Upsquare and use it just for promotion notifications. It’s not going to be a full blown shopping app, but it’s still going to yield great results!

What is the right app monetization model for me?

You’ll have to answer that question yourself. Most of the time the answer will be advertisement. Sometimes it will be a mix of different models.

I’ll just leave you with a couple of final thoughts and/or pointers that I couldn’t squeeze in anywhere else:

  • Got quality content, but no product? Advertising revenue is calling.
  • Don’t place ads on a shopping app. It leaves the door wide open for your competitors to steal your customers.
  • Mixing models like advertisement and in-app purchases can be a good idea, but don’t overdo it. Nobody likes to pay for something and then have to look at ads.
  • You really don’t want to abide by the second point? Explore the world of affiliate marketing. You’ll get more control over what you advertise and you can promote products from other merchants that complement, instead of compete, with your products.
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